Tag Archive | "Sag Harbor Historic Preservation and Architectural Revi"

A Slippery Slope: The Proposed Demolition of 125 Main Street


Sag Harbor is fortunate to have its long history reflected in its bounty of 18th century buildings, a rarity in most American towns. The proposal to demolish 125 Main Street begs the question; does Sag Harbor want to remain the embodiment of real American history? Or does it want to begin the slippery slope toward becoming a reconstructed approximation of American history? Sag Harbor’s Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review (ARB) will soon answer these questions.

125 Main Street is a colonial style building dating from the 1750’s, and is in the Sag Harbor Historic District. As such, it is historically and architecturally significant. It is therefore unfortunate that last year the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees issued a license agreement to the current owner, developer James Giorgio, to excavate the three feet of village-owned land in front of the building to make way for a new street level entrance. The ARB subsequently approved raising the building as part of a restoration campaign that would include installing a new foundation and retail entrance at ground level.

Last May, the owner’s architect, Chuck Thomas, approached the ARB about demolishing the building and reconstructing it in-kind using new and salvaged materials, citing unsound conditions. If they could demolish, Thomas offered, they would no longer seek to excavate and install new retail space at the basement. Instead, they would seek to lower the building 18” to improve accessibility to the retail space.

The real reason they want to demolish 125 Main Street is because this building is a 250-year-old wood frame structure and it is delicate. Too delicate to make their previous plans (lowering, raising, take your pick) cost effective. It’s easier to start from scratch with a building that looks the same and has a few salvaged shutters on it. The good news is that the previous ARB approval was conditional upon the other elements of the restoration. It’s now null and void, and should have no impact on the new decision.

The ARB has two issues to consider: the dangerous precedent of allowing the demolition of a building within the Sag Harbor Historic District; and the reality of what an accurate reconstruction would entail, both architecturally and from a regulatory stand point.

Sound preservation practice dictates that one intervenes as little as possible to avoid damage to the fabric of a historic building. A proposal to demolish a serviceable building from the 18th century solely for a commercial purpose is therefore horrifying. If the ARB approves this proposal, it will set a precedent that could jeopardize the future integrity of the historic district. Developers would henceforth be able to reference 125 Main Street when seeking to make their property more commercially viable by tearing down instead of restoring.

The building has not been deemed structurally unsound by the village. If there are problems stemming from its original method of construction or age, they do not necessarily justify demolition. Documentation supporting their argument that rehabilitation is not possible must be furnished to the ARB. The ARB must employ an independent professional with experience in historic structures to conduct the conditions assessment at the owner’s expense, as is within its purview according to village code. If the ARB rejects the proposal, the owner may appeal based on financial hardship. He would have to demonstrate that the building is not financially viable without being raised or lowered. Considering that the building is in service with at least one commercial tenant, the ARB cannot in good conscience find that 125 Main Street is not already making a reasonable return.

The ARB should encourage the owner to just build an access ramp and abandon these convoluted plans. The relationship between the stone terracing, the stoop, and the porch is architecturally important. Would the reconstruction maintain this important relationship? How could it be replicated if the building is being lowered?
And reconstruction would not be easy. If done right, it will be difficult and costly, and require scrupulous oversight. The Sag Harbor Historic District is listed on the state and national registers of historic places. As such, the proposed work must meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. The threshold required for a completely accurate reconstruction under those standards is challenging.

If the ARB were to enter into a legally-binding agreement allowing demolition and reconstruction, the board would have to monitor and enforce the agreement, requiring significant time and resources on its part. The agreement would need to explicitly state that each building element would have to be dismantled by hand, numbered, stored appropriately, treated according to certain standards, and re-installed. Any replacement member would need to match the original in material, dimension, profile, and finish. It would also have to require review of architectural drawings at certain phases, i.e., 50 percent completion, 75 percent, and 90 percent. Does the ARB have the resources to do this type of review?

Additionally, the owner would need to give specifics about exactly how much fabric he intends to re-use.
Finally, the ARB would need to have legal resources to support them. Anecdotes abound of historic buildings being dismantled and put in storage, and then never reassembled, or being lost or stolen. For instance, the infamous story of the Liang Stores, a prefabricated cast iron building designed by James Bogardus in 1849, and also known as “the building so nice they stole it twice.”

Aside from the regulatory challenges, there is also the practical complexity of reconstruction to consider. Regarding the difficulty that would be involved in reconstructing 125 Main Street, Richard Pieper, Director of Preservation at Jan Hird Pokorny Associates, said “Even for a cast iron building, which is as modular as you can get (except for Quonset huts) reconstruction is problematic. But for a 1750 building?” Hopefully the ARB and the developer will realize that this isn’t a practicable option for either of them. I urge concerned Sag Harbor residents to let the ARB know how they feel before their next meetings on July 14th and 25th.

Jackie Peu-Duvallon is a Long Islander and holds a masters degree in historic preservation from Columbia University. She is currently a preservation consultant working in New York City and Long Island. She previously worked for the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.

East End Digest – November 20

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75 Christmas Boxes & Counting

Thursday night’s “Wrap a Box of Kindness” event, sponsored by the Bridgehampton Parent Teacher Organization, brought many Bridgehampton families out to decorate and pack gifts into shoeboxes. These boxes will be delivered to needy children all over the world.

Operation Christmas Child is a project designed and operated by Franklin Graham and Samaritan’s Purse. It began in 1993 and has grown each year into a worldwide endeavor. All the boxes collected from around the United States are brought to over 130 countries and hand-delivered into the arms of a child – who may have never received a gift before.

Sag Harbor ARB: Vets Get Fence

Ralph Ficorelli, commander of the Sag Harbor VFW Chelberg & Battle Post 388, approached the Sag Harbor Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board on Thursday, November 13 to request a fence at the VFW in order to ensure the building’s parking lot is reserved for members of the post, rather than the general population, which has been parking there.

Ficorelli, accompanied by a number Sag Harbor veterans, requested a four-foot high, 261-foot long chain link fence, covered in green vinyl for the south and west sides of the VFW.

“The main reason we are doing this is because it is being used as a public parking lot and members down there, we have trouble finding places to park our cars,” explained Ficorelli.

The board had no quandary with the fence, but was concerned about residents on Rysam Street having to look at a green, vinyl chain link fence – which would generally not be approved in a residential neighborhood in the historic district of Sag Harbor.

Ficorelli argued that the green coating would help blend in the fence to the surrounding area and that the VFW intended to plant shrubbery around the fence to help shield it.

The board agreed to approve the fence with the caveat that the fence be shielded with shrubbery and the entry gate on Rysam be made partially of wood in keeping with the residential character of the neighborhood.

In other ARB news, Howard Kanovitz was approved to replace a historic column and repaint the historic residence at 27 Suffolk Street. Kanovitz also has sought to replace the windows, although the board has asked he look into restoration. Sean Murphy was approved to replace French doors at 27 Garden Street, Harbor Heights Gas Station was approved for new signs at their Hampton Street business, Anastasia Cole was approved for a picket fence at 3 Bay Street, Michael Butler was approved for building alterations at 37 Eastville Avenue and Blair and Cheryl Effron were granted permission for the demolition of an existing house at 34 Long Point Road and for a new two-story residence at the same site.

Suffolk Community College: Thanksgiving For The Needy

Faculty and students at the Suffolk County Community College Culinary Arts Center will be partnering with the Dominican Sisters Family Health Service located in Hampton Bays to prepare and individually package more than 150 dinners that will assist in feeding those in need for Thanksgiving.

Under the direction of chef/instructor Jerry Dececco, preparation for this event will take place at the Culinary Arts Center located at 20 East Main Street in Riverhead on Tuesday, November 25 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The menu will consist of roast turkey with giblet gravy, seasoned cranberry bread stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, string beans Almondine, dinner rolls, apple pie and pumpkin pie.

New York State Assembly: Update On Fiscal Crisis

In accordance with a new law enacted last year to help increase fiscal accountability and transparency in state government, Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr., a member of the ways and means committee, joined Assembly minority leader James Tedisco and the Assembly Minority Conference last week to formally submit their assessment of New York’s current fiscal condition. The report outlines estimates of the conference’s disbursements for public assistance, Medicaid and school aid, along with estimates for tax receipts and lottery receipts.

“Our state is facing tough economic times ahead that will require us to tighten our belts and exercise true fiscal discipline to ensure New York can weather this fiscal storm,” said Thiele. “Our conference’s report is comprehensive and forecasts a continued decline in state revenues while emphasizing the need for fiscally sound proposals to close the budget deficit without doing so on the backs of taxpayers.”

In its report, the Assembly Minority Ways and Means Committee estimated the public assistance rolls will closeout the current fiscal year with 501,096 cases, that total expenditures for public assistance in the state will be $2.158 billion and that the state share of those expenditures will be $828.8 million. The conference also estimated that public assistance caseload for the 2009-10 fiscal year will be 512,683, with total expenditures of $2.212 billion at a state share of $848.6 million. The 2009-10 estimates represent a 3.2 increase in caseload and a 2.3 percent increase in costs to the state.

According to Thiele, the conference has also estimated the Medicaid rolls will increase by 2.8 percent in the current fiscal year – resulting in a total enrollment of 3.6 million individuals. The ways and means committee expects the state share for the current fiscal year to be $17.7 billion. They also estimate that enrollment for the 2009-10 fiscal year will rise 4.8 percent, for a total of 3.8 million individuals with a state share of $19.4 billion and a local cap of $965 million.

Additionally, the committee forecast state school aid to increase by en estimated $1.9 billion for the 2009-10 school year. The increase would bring total funding for annual state school aid to $23 billion. The estimate is based upon May data provided by the state education department.

The state division of the budget’s mid-year update projects that New York State is facing a $1.5 billion budget gap this year and a $12.5 billion budget gap next year. The minority conference fiscal analysis suggests the gap is likely to be $1.2 billion this year and $11.6 billion next year.

Nature Conservancy: Clam Population Recovering

The Nature Conservancy and Suffolk County today announced study results that show early signs of a recovery for the bay’s hard clam population.

Four years ago, The Nature Conservancy, backed by a wide range of public and private supporters, took a chance – embarking on a shellfish restoration to “make the Great South bay Great Again” by restoring its hard clam population.

Hard clams play a vital role in the bay, helping maintain water quality by filtering debris and plankton out of the water as they feed. At the start of this effort the Bay’s clam population was so low that in much of the bay they were no longer reproducing successfully.  To help boost natural reproduction, the Conservancy-led partnership added over three million adult clams to the Bay in the last four years, creating a network of over 50 sites, or sanctuaries, where adult clams could grow and reproduce without disturbance.

Carl LoBue, senior marine scientist for The Nature Conservancy on Long Island said, “Our summer survey of the bay bottom revealed over 250 million juvenile clams which we believe to be offspring of the adult clams that we have been stocking in the Bay. That represents a 4,000 percent increase in the clam population of the central part of the bay since 2006. This is a very positive sign that we are on track towards meeting our restoration objectives. However recurring episodes of brown tide and natural predators are a continued threat. We must continue working with our partners to do what we can to ensure the continued success of this exciting restoration project.” 

Hard clams once were so abundant that Great South Bay supplied over 50 percent of the entire nation’s hard clams. Today the reported commercial harvest is down by more than 99 percent. Not only does the decline of shellfish have economic impacts, but water quality is also affected.  Chronic algal blooms (such as brown tide), which negatively impact marine life in the Great South Bay, have been linked to declining clam populations. Clams filter water and help keep the algae in control.

Inspired by its initial success, The Nature Conservancy will continue to work with partners on the Bluepoints Bottomlands Council on additional restoration activities, with the goal of eventually stepping back as nature takes over and the clams become self-sustaining.

Southampton Hospital: Recruits Genetic Counselor

Southampton Hospital is proud to announce the recruitment of the first Genetic Counselor to the East End of Long Island. Emily Smith, MS has joined Southampton Hospital this month to develop cancer counseling through genetic testing for ovarian and breast cancer (BRCA 1 & BRCA 2). She will serve as a resource for local physicians to explain the science of genetics, walk people through the decision of having a test and make recommendations on a case-by-case basis.

In the process of genetic counseling, family history and medical records are evaluated. At the patients request genetic tests are ordered and the results are assessed.  Counseling and psychological support are provided to enable the patient to reach a decision to learn more. 

Genetic counseling gives people an opportunity to sit down with a trained health professional to discuss their risk for a genetic disease and to help people learn more about the causes of genetic conditions and how they may be affected.

Previously, patients had to travel to Stony Brook Medical Center or Good Samaritan Hospital for genetic testing.

“I am anxious to provide this service to this great community, a service that many other parts of the country have had for more than 10 years,” said Smith.  She adds that the test results generally take approximately three-to-four weeks with a 99 percent level of accuracy.

“We plan to provide the state-of-the-art care that everyone deserves,” said Smith. 

Ms. Smith, a member of the National Society of Genetic Counselors, is a graduate of Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois and has varied clinical experience in the Genetic Counseling field.  According to Frederic Weinbaum, MD, Chief Medical Officer, “Offering this new service to the community is indicative of Southampton Hospital’s direction.  We are striving to provide the most advanced medical care available and will continue in this direction with the communities support.”

Smith was hired to be working specifically within the Breast Health Center providing genetic counseling for ovarian and breast cancer but she hopes that the department will expand into other aspects of genetic counseling.  She also plans to hold an informational seminar on genetic counseling during the upcoming Health Insights lecture series this winter.

Additional information is available on the Hospital website at www.southamptonhospital.org or contact Emily Smith to schedule an appointment at 377-3477.